Europe takes responsibility

oint op-ed by

EU High Representative JAVIER SOLANA

and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark PER STIG MOELLER

published by Jyllands Posten on 7 September 2006.

The pictures of the fighting in Lebanon and Israel are still fresh in our minds. Houses bombed to ruins. Crying children. The slaughter of civilians. Attacks in Israel. And the terrorist attacks in Egypt and Turkey are not forgotten either. We are often confronted with news about immigrants from Africa, trying to reach Europe in their little sinking boats. Attacks against the Danish Embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran during the cartoon affair, and stories about organised crime and trafficking in human beings, with its roots in countries outside the EU.

All these examples illustrate that there is a need for the EU in the area of foreign and security policy. All European countries can see that national interests are best looked after by a community – the EU. These examples also underline that the aim of the European project is no longer to secure peace in Europe – for it has been secured. We must now, to a greater extent, contribute to peace and stability in a globalised world. The challenges and needs are countless, but the EU can only make a difference if its efforts are focused, and if the political and military effort is combined with a civilian and long-term effort. And it is.

The latest Eurobarometer survey from the spring of 2006 shows that 57% of the population of Denmark believes that the EU plays a positive role in foreign and defence policy. This result is only exceeded in the area of terrorism (71%). This positive attitude reflects the EU's willingness to take responsibility and to be active in the foreign policy area, in relation for example to Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Iran and the Western Balkans. On the other hand, one must also be aware of the EU's limitations in the foreign policy area. Member States have to agree on our common line and if often takes time for that to happen.

Nonetheless, three examples show that the EU countries have the necessary political will and clout to have a positive influence in a globalised world:

The Middle East: 

At the informal meeting of foreign ministers in Finland at the weekend, the EU's foreign ministers were agreed that the EU should do its utmost to get the peace process going again. Despite the tense situation, there are some new opportunities to restart the peace process. There are no military solutions. There must be political solutions. Therefore the Roadmap for Peace must get back on track. In concrete terms, the EU wants to work for three strategic objectives:

First, a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following the Lebanon crisis, it is high time to kick-start the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Above all, the EU should support President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the formation of a broad coalition government on a basis which comes within the parameters set by the international community. The kidnapped Israeli soldier must also be returned. This should allow new negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on a two-state solution, on the basis of the 1967 borders.

Second, secure a sovereign, independent and democratic Lebanon. The EU's Member States are providing the backbone of the strengthened UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. The dispatch of 7000 soldiers and several ships and air force units to the international peace force in Lebanon indicates in the clearest possible terms that the EU countries are taking responsibility.

The EU has also shown leadership in the area of humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction, as further demonstrated by the results of the reconstruction conference in Stockholm on 31 August. EU Member States and the Commission between them promised to contribute more than a third of the total of 940 million dollars. Denmark alone has contributed 41 million kroner. Denmark and the EU have experience of a combined military and civilian input, gained in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This input may be decisive in achieving peace in Lebanon and the Middle East. Without stability, security, education and jobs it is difficult for new democracies to take root.

Thirdly, Syria must comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in its entirety.

These examples from the Middle East, Iran and the Western Balkans illustrate that the EU is especially active in the areas of foreign and security policy. The EU is a global player. A responsible one. Our vision is to help to solve problems and conflicts. We think we can make a difference. The Eurobarometer survey from the spring of 2006 is not wrong – and it would be great for it to be at least as good next year: Europe has influence and the EU makes a difference.

Document Type: Article
Document Sources: European Union (EU)
Subject: Peace proposals and efforts, Situation in Lebanon, Situation in the OPT including Jerusalem
Publication Date: 07/09/2006